Loving the Music - The Sound of July: 15th - 21st July 2020
It was a week for South African music with a feature on the Amapiano craze and my Mandela Day selection, interspersed with some very different and worthwhile tracks. Here's week three of our four-part monthly recap of mini-features from Loving the Music.
This series of blog articles cover a week of the feature posts from the Loving the Music Facebook page and group. This makes it easier for our music-loving community to search through our ever-growing archive of songs, backstories and trivia.
July 15th - 21st 2020. - Musicians Featured:
Kabza De Small - Erykah Badu - Jacob Collier - Thomas Misch - Mike Oldfield - Johnny Clegg - Brenda Fasie - Lucky Dube - Canned Heat - Jaco Pastorius
15th July: As promised, today I am featuring the purely South African dancefloor sound that has swept to prominence across the taverns, clubs and airwaves of the country. I’m talking about Amapiano. But what is Amapiano and how did it come about? And that folks, is the theme for today.
If you are looking for a definition of what makes up Amapiano you may have a problem, as I found when I started researching it. The ‘official’ definition is piano melodies, Kwaito basslines, low tempo 90s South African house rhythms and percussions borrowed from another sub-genre, Bicardi.
However, as Siphiwe Ngwenya of the local label Born in Soweto, said in an interview “If you put one hundred guys in a room and you asked them what Amapiano is and where it started, you'll get one hundred answers and some very heated debates.”
How I would describe it is jazzy dancefloor Afro-soul that is sophisticated, smooth and unmistakenly South African. I also think its appeal reaches far beyond the dancefloor. Instead of choosing different DJs for tonight’s mix, I’ve settled on three tracks from one of the top names of the genre, Kabza de Small, who as of the end of 2019 was the most streamed South African artist. His collaborations include another top name, DJ Maphorisa and together they go under the name The Scorpion Kings and feature a range of local talented vocalists, producers and musicians. This track was released last month and features the artists Howard and XolaniGuitars. Here’s the smooth, sexy and very sophisticated Many Faces. Welcome to Amapiano!
Today I am sharing a very South African phenomenon, Amapiano, and as you would have heard in the first post, this is not just run of the mill ‘club music’. This is smooth, sophisticated and very listenable.
Where Amapiano started is a hotly contested debate. The popular theory is that it is Johannesburg based, coming from the township music of Soweto, Alexandra, Vosloosrus and Katlehong. However, because the percussion is similar to Bicardi (another sub-genre), some say it was made popular by Pretoria taxi drivers playing mixes from local favourite, DJ Mojava. For overseas members, I must explain. Johannesburg and Pretoria are only around 50km apart, so we are talking specifics!
Wherever the starting point, the mixes started being shared on social media and the popularity sky-rocketed the sound from sub-genre to mainstream. For the second Kabza de Small track today I’ve chosen another from last month’s release, I Am King of Amapiano. This track features the Dj’s/Producers Kelvin Momom and KopzzAvenue. Here’s Impilo.
In closing off today’s feature on Amapiano I’m featuring yet another track from ‘I Am King of Amapiano’ by top Dj, Kabza de Small. This time the Sowetan born vocalist Daliwonga is featured. I know many of these names mean very little to anyone but to fans of local dance music, but these are the rising stars of South African music and are well worth getting to know.
Because the origins are unresolved and the genre is still growing, who knows where this phenomenon is going and what the next incantation of this very cool South African sound is. I’m leaving you with the song Into Yellow.
Thanks for joining me exploring Amapiano today. The more I am researching this new genre, the more remarkable music I’m finding. I hope you haven’t just flipped past today’s posts because you don’t think this music might be ‘you’. This is Proudly South African music with an international appeal. Have a happy Wednesday folks. Catch you soon. 😎
16th July: Today is for lovers of smooth Jazz. Why? Because you deserve it!
I have posted some live video clips from NPR Music’s Tiny Desk Concerts in the past. It is a great idea which brings musicians, known and unknown, to perform a trio of live songs at the NPR studio. It is cramped (especially when they host all eleven members of the Tedeschi Trucks Band), informal, and with only a few dozen people in attendance, very intimate.
Thank goodness the virus hasn’t stopped the Tiny Desk Concerts from happening, and except that the past few posts have been recorded in home studios specifically for the NPR online audience, it seems like business as normal. Today I’ve chosen one Tiny Desk clip from their extensive archives and two home-recorded sessions that were posted over the last few weeks; all with a Jazz feel and all from top-drawer musicians.
I’m starting with an archive choice from 2018 when the multi-talented Erykah Badu complete with a line-up of excellent musicians, wowed the studio with the songs Rimshot and Green Eyes. I’ve watched this clip a few times since becoming a Tiny Desk fan and am always blown away by her delivery.
What I like about NPR’s videos is the detail they give with the video clip, so those who want to know more, they’ve delivered. If you’ve seen this clip before, it deserves a re-run, for those who may be new to Tiny Desk Concerts and/or Erykah Badu, you are in for a treat.
Today I am featuring some clips of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert series. We started the first section with two amazing songs from Erykah Badu, and for the second slot, I have chosen one of my favourites young geniuses, Jacob Collier.
This is one of the home-recorded clips that I mentioned in the first post, but then again, Jacob Collier has made numerous home-clips featuring numerous versions of himself playing the various chosen instruments, so the fact that this clip has the quality of a professional music video is unsurprising.
Also unsurprising of Jacob Collier is the quality and consistency of his compositions, and this selection is no exception. They are pure genius, but remember, this is a 25-year-old who has already won four Grammys and is invited to host masterclasses worldwide. What this guy doesn’t know about harmony isn’t worth knowing.
The virus certainly hasn’t slowed Jacob down. He is used to presenting from his home music room, which is now pretty well known across the net. Since lockdown, he has played live duets with various top names over Instagram, recorded a song in his bathroom and is working on volume 3 of his four-volume record, Djesse. Here’s a collection of Jacob Colliers with a few beautiful tracks for you.
The last clip of Tiny Desk Concerts for today is some excellent London-born talent, Thomas Misch, who is joined here by one of England’s up and coming names, Yussef Dayes. Again, this is smooth Jazz executed perfectly by a group of fine young musicians whose futures look very bright.
This is another collaborative home recording produced for the NPR Tiny Desk team, but in no way distracts from the tightness that these musician’s manage to achieve in their separate spaces. Thomas began releasing his music on SoundCloud on 2012 and released his debut album, Geography in 2018. People started taking notice and this year he released the studio album, What Kinda Music, in collaboration with Yussef Dayes. For a second album to be picked up and distributed through the famous Blue Note Records is testimony to these fine musicians.
Thank you for spending some time with me at the Tiny Desk concerts today. If you like the NPR idea it could be a good idea to head over to their YouTube channel and subscribe. They often have a treat in store, as you would have seen today. I hope your week is behaving itself and that you all have a happy Thursday. Catch you tomorrow. 😎
17th July: Normally whenever anyone does a piece on Mike Oldfield, they include something from Tubular Bells. However ground-breaking and brilliant this ‘first’ was for Mike Oldfield and Virgin Records, many of Mike Oldfields other recordings are just as brilliant. They may not have had the impact of Tubular Bells, but with 26 albums to his name, there are some classics that are worth exploring in today’s feature.
I’m starting with his third album from 1975, Ommadawn. Although it peaked at #4 on the UK Album Charts at the time, it never reached the same status as Tubular Bells, but when you have given the world your magnum-opus as your first album, how do you follow it?
He was disappointed with the response to Hergest Ridge, his second album, and to prove that he wasn’t a one-hit-wonder, set out to create another masterpiece. He didn’t want to work in the pressures of a professional environment, so when he was ready he, convinced Virgin to install a 24-track studio in his home. How could Richard Branson refuse? Tubular Bells had put his new record label on the map.
And the album name? Toward the end of the recording, Mike Oldfield came across a list of fictitious words developed by Irish musician Clodagh Simonds, who claims that he adapted it from the Gaelic word for fool, ‘amadan’. In 2017 Oldfield released Return to Ommadawn, a project he had been planning for some time. Ommadawn is literally an album of two parts - Part one and Part two! - One part for each side of the album. Here’s Ommadawn Part 1. Enjoy.
We are looking at some of Mike Oldfield's major works (apart from Tubular Bells) today. We covered Ommadawn in the first post and now we move forward a couple of years to 1994 and an album that stayed in my CD shuttle selection for months after buying it, Songs of Distant Earth.
This was the 16th album from Mike Oldfield and is based on sci-fi guru, Arthur C Clarke’s, novel of the same name. Mike didn’t think it was his best story but liked the way it sparked his musical ideas of space travel and the discovering of other worlds and what would transpire along the way.
Arthur C Clarke was thrilled when Mike Oldfield expressed interest in a musical piece based on his work. He was already a big fan, not only due to Tubular Bells, but for Oldfield’s superb score for the 1984 movie, The Killing Fields, and was happy to cooperate with the new project. Here is the opening piece from this remarkable album, Songs of Distant Earth, and the track ‘Let There Be Light’
To close this selection of Mike Oldfield albums I have jumped to 2005 and the two-disc album, Light + Shade, his first release for Mercury Records. The popularity of the virtual reality games world embraced Oldfield’s work and some of the tracks from the album were used in alternate mixes for games like Maestro and Tres Lunas, so introducing his music to a new generation of listeners. The album features two parts (a theme he often employed over his recording career); ‘Light’ consists of nine bright and gentle pieces, while ‘Shade’ brings a darker element to the music.
An interesting development was when Mike Oldfield made four of the tracks available in the U-MYX format which allowed fans to make their own mixes. This idea has been used more often with the rise of electronic music, especially in the EDM and Psytrance genres I would like to leave you with a beautiful piece from the Light part of the Light + Shade album, the gentle composition Angelique.
Thanks for joining me for some Oldfield magic today. I’ve always found his music perfect as either a soft ‘background silence-filler’, or those moments when you crank the volume and let every note seep into you. I hope you all survived the week in one piece and have a lovely weekend in store. Catch you soon. 😎
18th July: It is Mandela Day, and how better to celebrate the great man’s life and influence than through music. There are many songs, local and international, that were written about Nelson Mandela, apartheid and the Black struggle, but today I have focussed on three South African musicians who are all remembered as cultural icons, and alas, no longer with us.
My first choice for today is Johnny Clegg with his band Savuka and his song Asimbonanga, which roughly translated means, we have not seen him. This alluded to the fact that nobody had seen Mandela since his incarceration in 1962. The song was written in 1987 when Mandela was still imprisoned and although the song was banned locally (as was many of Clegg’s songs), it became one of the most popular anti-apartheid songs and has been covered by numerous artists.
Personally, one of the most emotional moments in SA musical history was in 1999 when Nelson Mandela joined Johhny Clegg on stage to sing and dance along to this monumental song. I can’t get through watching this first clip without tears and I am not ashamed to admit it. Here are the two great men with Asimbonanga.
My second Mandela Day choice comes from the lady who shocked the establishment with her outspoken strength and sense of spirit, Brenda Fasie. As the youngest of nine children and born in the township of Langa in Cape Town, she was named after Brenda Lee by her music-loving pianist mother. She was destined for the music business and started performing at 4-years-old. Knowing what it was like being raised in poverty, her songs soothed and reassured disadvantaged Black South African’s at a time when they needed it. I have chosen what is possibly her most politically charged song, Black President, which she wrote with producer ‘Chicco’ Twala.
She was the ultimate maverick; "Fassie’s politics was manifested not through how proudly she donned any party colours, but by being anti-establishment. She challenged issues of race, gender and sexuality head-on, without naming her politics" (Frame interview)
Although her life was dogged with the odd scandal and problems with drug addiction, she remains one of our great musical heroes and national treasures.
My final choice for Mandela Day comes from a local musician who was sadly murdered in 2007, Reggae legend Lucky Dube. In his 25-year career, he released 22 albums, including some in Afrikaans, a fact little known! However, in keeping with today’s theme, I have chosen the song House of Exile.
Like all the artists I have featured today, many of Lucky Dube’s songs were banned in South Africa, but this didn’t stop our favourite Rastafarian from achieving platinum album sales and recognition both locally and internationally with performances alongside Peter Gabriel and Sinéad O’Connor.
On Mandela Day it is customary to do something for the community for 67 minutes. Remarkably, as I am finishing off writing up, editing and link checking today’s feature has taken 72 minutes. Pretty close! Glad I have managed to do my bit for our music community. Have a happy Saturday folks – Catch you tomorrow.😎
19th July: It has been a run-around day and I unfortunately only have one piece of music to share with you, but what a piece it is. I remember walking past the Hillbrow Record Library with a friend one Saturday morning in 1977 when this amazing electronic music started playing. We stopped and listened along with a small group who were intrigued by what we were hearing. All of a sudden a whole bunch of people rushed out and covered all with stickers saying ‘I Love Oxygéne’. It was my introduction to Jean-Michel Jarre and the amazing composition in six parts, Oxygéne.
When you consider that, like Mike Oldfield and Tubular Bells, this was the work of one genius who took eight months of overdubbing himself, playing instruments and pushing the limits of his analogue equipment and early electronics, this is an amazing feat of endurance. I came across this 2007 clip that was made for a DVD of Jean-Michel Jarre recorded live on stage (but without an audience), using the same instruments as the original. Obviously, because he couldn’t overdub himself live without the aid of digital equipment, he enlisted three collaborators to recreate his seminal work.
I always smile when I hear some of the old-guard of music-lover claim that electronic music is just a gimmick and you don’t need talent to create, and then go onto cite The Beatles, Hendrix, Floyd etc. Anyone would think electronic music was a new invention. 😏
In this clip you’ll even see the use of the Theramin, the first electronic musical instrument to be made (1920), and used in quite a few classical pieces. In watching this they will also see a team of highly skilled musicians who wouldn’t be able to do this if it wasn’t for a comprehensive knowledge of their craft. So less knocking and more listening, please!
I hope that sharing this serves two purposes. I know a few of the group are involved in sound-engineering and thought they would find this interesting. The other purpose? to reintroduce this remarkable piece of music to you all. I hope you all had a good weekend and are ready for next week. May it be a good one. Catch you then. 😎
20th July: Some bands manage to create a sound that is particularly their own, and among those distinctive bands of the 60s ‘Age of Aquarius’ era, is the Blues/Rock boogie band, Canned Heat. Although they are still performing, the loss of their frontman ‘The Bear’ Bob Hite, ensured that their particular sound was a short-lived phenomenon.
They formed in 1965 and after some shuffling of the line-up, started recording in 1967 with the single, ‘Rollin’ and Tumblin’ with ‘Bullfrog Blues’ as the B side. People took notice, and their first album, simply named Canned Heat, was released by Mercury records later that year. All the tracks were reworkings of older Blues songs and as a debut it didn’t do too badly, managing to hit #76 in the Billboard Charts of the year.
Alas, as with so many bands, certain members were beset with various problems and Canned Heat have quite a tragic history. Before we delve any further into the story, let’s listen to the style that made them famous. With ‘The Bear’ (Bob Hite) on vocals, Alan Wilson of guitar and harmonica, Larry Taylor on Bass and Frank Cook on drums, here’s the Robert Johnson classic, Dust My Broom.
We are looking at the Blues/Rock boogie band, Canned Heat today, and for the second track we pick up at the time of their rise to fame.
After their first big live appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival, Down Beat magazine wrote "Technically, Vestine and Wilson are quite possibly the best two-guitar team in the world and Wilson has certainly become our finest white blues harmonica man. Together with powerhouse vocalist Bob Hite, they performed the country and Chicago blues idiom of the 1950s so skillfully and naturally that the question of which race the music belongs to becomes totally irrelevant.”
The band also gained notoriety as the ‘bad boys’ of Rock after being jailed on drug charges in Denver. Their manager had to sell off Canned Heat’s publishing rights for a mere $10,000 to raise the bail money.
We join them for a track from their third album, Living the Blues, and a song that shot them to stardom when it reached #1 in twenty-five countries and went on to become the unofficial anthem for the Woodstock festival. Here’s Going Up the Country.
In closing Canned Heat’s story today I have chosen another of their huge early hits and an all-time favourite of mine, On the Road Again.
Vocalist Bob Hite was the perfect frontman. A huge man with a big personality and not shy of big gestures, like arriving on stage atop a purple dayglo elephant for the 1968 New Years celebrations at the Shrine Auditorium.
Unfortunately, ‘The Bear’ Hite also had a major drug problem, and the band often had to perform without him. This caused many tensions and resulted in the loss of band members and changes in the line-up along the way.
There were a few live compilations released to critical acclaim, but the popularity of the band was waining and on returning after an exhausting and turbulent tour, Larry Taylor left the band to join John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers in 1970, soon followed by guitarist Harvey Mandel.
The tragic death of Bob Hite from a heroin overdose while backstage at a concert in Hollywood is well documented and changed the band forever. Numerous member line-ups and the loss of long time bassist, Larry Taylor, to cancer have all but wiped out the original members of the band., with only drummer, Adolfo de la Parra who joined in 1967, remaining.
Canned Heat’s popularity has endured in a few countries but is considered more of a 'time-capsule curiosity' than the bad boy trail-blazers they were known as. As promised, we leave Canned Heat this Monday with their brain-worm of a hit, On the Road Again. For those who are interested in the deeper story behind the tragic tale of Canned Heat, I can recommend an excellent article by Max Bell on the LouderSound website (link in the comments section). I do hope your Monday has been good to you and is setting a happy tone for the rest of the week. Catch you tomorrow 😎
21st July: A very happy Tuesday to all you music-lovers. I’ve chosen an interesting musician to do a mini-feature on today who is sadly no longer with us but considered one of the most influential bass players of all time, the extremely innovative Jaco Pastorius.
Anyone who has an interest in Jazz will immediately recognise him (amongst others) as part of the distinctive Weather Report sound, heard him with the likes of Pat Methany, or add a spark of magic to the songs of numerous top artists including Joni Mitchell. I am featuring tracks from all three today that exemplifies Jaco Pastorius’ skill.
As the third son of a singer/jazz drummer who spent his life on the road, Jaco was destined for a career in music. He bought his first upright bass at age 17, but soon changed to electric when the humidity of Florida caused cracks and warps in the instrument’s wood. In the early ‘70s while teaching bass at the University of Miami he met and befriended Jazz guitarist Pat Methany. 1976 saw the debut album “Jaco Pastorius’ with an epic line-up including Pat Methany, Michael Breckner, Herbie Hancock, Hue Laws, David Sandborn and Wayne Shortner - all huge names in the Jazz world.
I’m starting today with a rare early track (1974) made at the Club Zirkon Omaha Celebration in Boston. Here we have Pat Methany on guitar and Bob Moses on drums along with Jaco Pastorius. Sadly there is no video as such and this is an audio clip, but in a way it helps focus ones attention on the music even better.
Today we are taking a glimpse into the music of bass player supreme, Jaco Pastorius. In this second part we pick up with the Weather Report years.
Jaco has always been outspoken and had introduced himself as ‘the greatest bass player in the world’ to Weather Report’s keyboardist and leader, Joe Zawinul, sometime before. After hearings his demos, Jaco was the first choice of replacement when the band lost Alphonso Johnson, their original bassist.
When Weather Report’s 1977 album Heavy Weather, with its Grammy-nominated track, Birdland, hit the market Jazz fans and the music press sat up and listened. Jaco’s distinct bass style stood out above anything that had been heard in years. Suddenly Jaco Pastorius was the name on everybody’s lips.
Unfortunately, Jaco was prone to mental disorders which were exacerbated by the use of drugs and alcohol that started during the Weather Report years. He left the band in 1982 due to clashes with tour commitments and private projects. I have chosen the obvious song to honour Jaco Pastorius’ time with Weather Report. Here’s Birdland.
To close today’s three-part glimpse at the career of bassist supreme, Jaco Pastorius, we pick up after he left Weather Report. Warner Bros. signed Jaco to a favourable contract and he used the money to set up ‘Word of Mouth’. This 21-piece big band toured in 1982 with some success, but the leader’s eccentric behaviour led to concerns. Shaving your head, painting your face black and throwing your bass guitar into Hiroshima Bay is a little beyond the bounds of eccentricity.
In 1982 he was diagnosed with the recently recognised, bipolar disorder, although the symptoms had been evident for years. Sadly, his behaviour led to problems holding down jobs or honouring commitments and over the latter part of his life he was often homeless. Sadly, he died after a fight outside of a Florida music club in 1987 at the age of 35.
During his 13 years in the industry Jaco Pastorius won numerous awards and accolades and is considered the Second Greatest Bassist of All Time and included in the DownBeat Hall of Fame. He was highly respected for his musicianship and talent and accepted for his eccentricities, but it is sad that this mega-talent left us so young.
To close today’s Jaco Pastorius theme I have chosen the track ‘Offnight Backstreet’ from Joni Mitchell’s 1977 ‘Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter’ album because it shows how Jaco’s talent could bring that extra element of brilliance to an already perfect song. Thanks for joining me for a peek at the sad, but brilliant, Jaco Pastorius today. Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of Roger Waters performing The Wall at the former site of the Berlin Wall. I think we may just join him. See you tomorrow. 😎
I hope that you find these weekly recaps of Loving the Music mini-features make your musical world a little easier. Happy exploring! Join our Facebook Community here for a music group who does more than just post a link to a song.
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